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PLAGIARISM OR POLITICS?
Cape Town, 27 July 2016: Last week’s 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio was in the news for more than Donald Trump’s appearance as the Republican candidate in the run for the US Presidency. His wife was in the spotlight too. Melania Trump’s speech was trumped by plagiarism, using large sections of Michelle Obama’s speech made at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.
According to Ian Light, CEO of Eiffel Corp, leading education technology provider in Africa, and the licensed provider of Turnitin at educational institutions on the continent, the embarrassment could easily have been avoided.
“Turnitin was developed by schools and institutions to develop original thinking, to help students learn how to properly incorporate primary source material into their own work. The tool aims in to improve writing and critical thinking skills,” he said.
“Melania Trump could have used Turnitin and would have seen that much of her speech was plagiarised. There are three kinds of plagarism – cloning, word for word match count and find-replace.”
Cloning – copying verbatim and word-for-word.
Word-for-word match count (23 words) – there is a one in one trillion chance that a sixteen-word phrase matches another phrase of the same length just by coincidence. As the number of words matching increase, the probability of a purely coincidental match goes down significantly.
Find-replace – where a few words or phrases are changed, but the meaning kept intact.
However when academics and teachers use the tool to review original thinking, they also consider intent. Students often inadvertently plagiarise as they learn how to incorporate others’ thoughts and ideas into their own work. This is all part of the learning process. More than just the copying of words, a comparison of Melania’s and Michelle’s speeches follows the same sequence of thoughts and ideas. To an educator, this belies intent.
Light said that by comparing the text of the two speeches, there are some disconcerting similarities.
“We believe this can be used as a teachable moment to help teach students take ownership of their own work, properly use source material and avoid plagiarism; a lesson in the real world and not just the classroom.”
“Students submit papers and assignments through the Turnitin platform. The system automatically returns the paper, identifying areas of plagiarism that require revision and re-writing. By the time the lecturer receives the paper, depending on the subject, it contains a higher percentage of original thought, taking correct referencing into account, thereby mproving the student’s writing abilities and understanding of the subject,” said Light.
– Prepared by Kim Barty on behalf of Go4Word and Eiffel Corp.
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(Eiffel Corp — August 4, 2016) —